September 1, 2011 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Members of the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees rejected the petitions of a citizens’ group seeking a ballot question last wee amidst much contention and controversy.
We’ve heard several versions of the story, and been provided reams of background, although none of it from anyone in the township. When we called, we left messages, but are still waiting for any return call. Probably some communication problem.
For those who haven’t had occasion to drive through Plymouth Township recently, there are red-colored signs reading “We Support Our Firefighters” cropping up like dandelions in spring across area lawns.
They are in response to a reported plan of the township administration to close a fire station, reduce the firefighters staffing by half and eliminate Advanced Life Support as a service for residents. Conflicting accounts of the plan are almost as prevalent as the signs. Some say the board members have detailed the plan publicly, others say no such plans have ever been made official. The entire issue is fraught with conflicting stories, gossip, innuendo and irreconcilable ‘official’ statements.
A member of the group attempting to get the question of a dedicated millage to fund the township fire department on the ballot said there were about 700 of the signs out and more on request from area residents. More than 3,500 residents signed the petitions which requested that the township board authorize the placement of the question of a 1-mill fire department levy on the Nov. 8 ballot.
The group wasn’t asking the board members to support or deny the question, and the petition language is clear that signing means only that the resident is in favor of having the option of voting on the issue.
Seemed pretty reasonable, as do the well-spoken, logical members of the group who really aren’t asking for anything more than the right to be heard by those they elected and direct their representatives in the direction the majority wishes to go.
At the meeting, the board members said they hadn’t had time to look at the petitions carefully since they had just been made aware of them the preceding Friday. Someone was well aware of them long before that, obviously, since several of the signatures were questioned and the Wayne County Registrar of Deeds contacted about proper ownership of parcels of property, attempting to determine if the signature was that of the registered owner.
The meeting did get more than contentious and erupted into a shouting match as emotions ran high. Many in the community are concerned that the $1 million spent to train the firefighters in Advanced Life Support will be wasted, and that lives will, in fact, be lost without this emergency room on wheels service. Others claim this is a red herring by the firefighters unions attempting to better their bargaining position.
It appears to us that the unions have offered more and more concessions to the township, which must fill a $1 million shortfall in the fire budget created when the City of Plymouth left the joint operating agreement with the township.
It also appears that this has become a very personal issue with some members of the administration who have made a decision and for reasons known only to themselves will not allow logic or reason, or the will of those who put them in office and whom they are expected to represent, to deter or change that path. If the 3,500 who signed these petitions in two weeks are an indication of the feelings of a section of the 28,000 or so township residents, why aren’t township officials doing whatever it takes to get this issue on the ballot?
Their job is to represent the people, not their own parochial interests, whatever they may be.
They were elected, not anointed